I was nine when the Tai-Kok raided my home town of Grand Junction, Colorado. The monsters considered children a delicacy and always attacked the schools first. We were on the playground when the fighter jets started falling from the sky. The earth shuddered beneath our feet as the airplanes slammed into the city, setting it ablaze.
Mrs. Parker, our teacher’s aide, shrieked like a crazy person when a black Tai-Kok marauder landed in the elementary school’s parking lot. The doors slid open revealing tall, hairless, skeletal humanoids with a mouth full of sharp metal teeth and three blood-red eyes. Funky metal spikes protruded from their milk white skulls. Quacking like demented ducks, the monsters rushed out.
To my utter disgust Mrs. Parker fainted, making her easy pickins for the monsters. The freaked-out kids started screaming and running in every which direction. Like that was gonna help? Sure enough, the Tai-Kok chased after them.
Momma had taught me how to use my special talent to protect myself. She also drilled me on what to do if the Tai-Kok ever attacked. Why hadn’t their parents done the same thing? Did they want their kids to get eaten?
A monster with a quill covered face charged toward me. I automatically seized control of his mind. “Stop! Don’t move!”
The monster froze. His three eyes rolled wildly as he realized his muscles had locked up. His freaky metal teeth snapped incessantly. Clack. Clack. Clack.
“Na na nanna. Can’t move, can ya?” I did a happy dance. It worked just like momma said it would. “You’re not eating anyone today, are ya Spiky.”
The monster honked loudly.
I frowned. It almost sounded like he was laughing. Cold prickles suddenly ran up my spine and bam! The image of a Tai-Kok with a metal mohawk shooting at me flashed through my head. I hit the ground. Twenty seconds later, a red energy bolt whizzed by and hit Spiky. He disintegrated in spectacular fountain of sparks. “Ha! Not so funny now, is it?”
Squawking furiously, Mohawk raised his pistol again.
I dove behind a concrete planter. Dazzling red fireflies engulfed it and poof. It was gone.
“Wazzock’s piss!” I lashed out with my telekinesis and smacked Mohawk right in the kisser. His head snapped back and down he went.
Scrambling to my feet, I grabbed his laser pistol and checked the power levels. A full load. Momma said the universe was full of bad people and we went to the range every week to shoot different weapons. She had me play video games to learn battle tactics, critical thinking and how to persevere in the face of overwhelming odds. Warriors of the Galaxy was my favorite game. I played with Wazzock, an apprentice fighter like me, and we really kicked butt.
Another Tai-Kok ship landed in the parking lot.
I ducked behind a wall and reached out mentally, “Momma, I need help!” A cold ball of fear formed in my stomach when she didn’t answer. “Momma?”
Frightened shrieks caught my attention. I peeked over the wall. The Tai-Kok were carrying little first graders to their ships.
“Save them.” Momma’s voice was a faint whisper. “You must save them.”
“I will momma. I promise.” Drawing heavily on my special talent, I took control of all the monster’s minds. My body trembled violently as I struggled to hold them. “Stop! Let them go.”
The Tai-Kok dropped the children. Their metal teeth clacked crazily.
“Go to the underground shelter,” I ordered the kids. They obediently ran into the school.
Momma mentally kissed my cheek. “Remember what I have taught you Casey. And know this, I will always love you. Now stop the Tai-Kok.”
“Yes, momma.” I could feel the monsters’ terrible hunger. They craved the flesh of the small ones. I shrieked, “You horrible freaks wanna eat? Eat each other. Cause kids taste icky, but Tai-Kok are yummy. Really yummy. Like a Happy meal.”
The monsters made a strange squawking eeeeeerrrr noise and attacked each other.
My eyes widened in horror. Ugh. They reminded me of those dinosaurs in the movies that went chomp, chomp, chomp. Gross. Who knew Tai-Kok blood was such a funny color.
Mohawk scrambled over to Mrs. Parker and bit her leg.
“Bad Tai-Kok. No teeth on the human. Spit!” I commanded.
The Tai-Kok spat out a chunk of flesh.
My stomach rolled. That was just nasty. “If you’re hungry, go eat them.” I pointed at the fighting monsters. And just like that, Mohawk joined the battle.
Within a very short time, the parking lot was littered with dead and dying Tai-Kok.
“I did it momma. I did it!” A sharp stabbing pain suddenly ricocheted through my body and the mental link with my mother snapped. A sob broke from me. “Momma? Momma? What happened? Where are you? Please don’t leave me. Please. I don’t want to be alone,” I wailed.
“You’re not alone,” a warm, reassuring male voice said in my head.
I looked around wildly. “What? Who are you?”
“My name is Saul. I’m psychic like you.”
Horror knotted my stomach. Momma said my special talent was a secret and I could never, ever tell anyone about it. “I’m not like you. Go away.”
“I can’t do that sweetheart. The Tai-Kok are still attacking the city. Tell me which school you’re at and I will come for you.”
“No. Gotta find momma.” I kept trying to locate my mother’s familiar mental pattern, but all I could sense was an empty black void.
“I’ll help you find your momma,” Saul said gently. “What’s your name?”
Could I trust him? I knew momma was hurt bad. I couldn’t let her die. I couldn’t. “Promise?”
“I promise. Tell me your name.” Saul’s mental voice was reassuring and at the same time full of authority.
My body shook from exhaustion and I knew I couldn’t fight off any more monsters. “It’s Casey and I’m at Mesa Elementary School.”
“What’s your momma name?”
“Liliana.” I pulled some of momma’s brain candy out of my pocket. I was supposed to eat it after I used my powers.
“Where does your momma work?”
I popped the hard candy in my mouth. “She’s a healer at Moab Spiritual Center.”
“Show me what she looks like and I’ll send some men to look for her.”
I flashed Saul an image of momma.
“Is your hair red like your mother’s?”
“Is your last name Jones?”
“Where’s your father?”
Why was Saul asking all these stupid questions? “Are you gonna help my momma or not?”
“I said I would and I always keep my word.”
“Okay. If you don’t, I’ll make you sorry.”
I didn’t like the amusement in Saul’s voice. “Yep. Just like I made the Tai-Kok sorry.”
A military helicopter landed next to the Tai-Kok’s marauders and heavily armed soldiers swarmed out.
A big soldier in a fancy blue uniform jumped down. His gaze surveyed the dead and dying Tai-Kok and his eyebrows rose in amazement. “Finish them off.”
Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. Bang. The soldiers shot any Tai-Kok still moving.
I scanned the big man’s mental aura. It was Saul and his mind kinda reminded me of momma’s.
Saul turned and studied me. I felt him mucking around in my brain. “You did this?”
“I did and stay out of my head.” I hit Saul with a burst of telekinesis and knocked him out of my mind.
Shock flashed across Saul’s face as he staggered back a step. He shook his head as if to clear it. “Do that again and I will put you over my knee and tan your behind. Have I made myself clear?”
I frowned. I could knock him out, but who would help me find momma? “Yes sir.”
He walked over to me. “Are you sure your last name isn’t Jones? You remind me of my niece. I have a feeling you’re going to be a handful like Kaylee.”
Cold prickles ran up my back. Wazzock’s piss! More monsters were coming.
I felt the presence of another man in my head. A very powerful psychic. I threw up my shields and listened as he warned Saul, “There is a squadron of marauders heading your way, General.”
“Copy Quinn.” Saul held out his hand. “Let’s go Casey.”
I took his hand. “I think I made the monsters mad.”
“You sure did sweetheart, but that’s a good thing. You’re gonna fit right in with the rest of the Sirens.”
“You think I’m a Siren?”
“I know you are.” Saul lifted me into the helicopter.
Me? A Siren? Awesome. I watched all the soldiers enter the school. “They aren’t coming with us?”
“No. Their mission is to keep the children safe.”
“What’s our mission?”
A scary smile formed on Saul’s mouth. “We’re going to teach those alien fuckers a lesson.”
“Umm. You said a bad word.”
“I did, didn’t I?”
“Uh huh. How are you going to teach those alien fuckers a lesson?”
Saul sighed. “A regular little myna bird, aren’t ya?”
“How about we stick with horrible, creepy Tai-Kok?”
“Our lab guys have modified the horrible, creepy monsters’ laser cannons. The Tai-Kok are about to learn about Yankee ingenuity.”
What the heck was Yankee ingenuity?
Loud cracking booms sounded as eight marauders broke the sound barrier. The air streaming off their wings, they flew straight at us.
“Take ‘em out,” Saul commanded. Thirty seconds later, blinding red energy beams struck the Tai-Kok ships. Kaboom! Multiple fireballs mushroomed in the smoked filled sky. Pieces of burning debris rained down on the city.
I clapped my hands. “Whoa! That was better than the Fourth of July fireworks!”
Saul grinned. “Yes, it was.”
I felt Quinn send a telepathic message to Saul, but he blocked me from hearing what was being said. One look at the expression of sadness and regret on Saul’s face and I knew they had found momma. “No! Momma’s not dead. She’s not.”
Saul hugged me tightly. “I’m so sorry sweetheart, but my men didn’t get to her in time.”
I burst into tears. “No. She can’t be dead. She can’t. What will happen to me? Where will I go?” Dozens of minds cocooned mine in a gentle loving warmth. “You belong to us now. You will never be alone.” And I wasn’t. Alone. Ever.
Having a large family of psychics raising you meant 24/7 surveillance. Nothing got past them. Nothing. Quinn was the worst. “Shut the video game down and go to sleep. Do not use mind control on your teacher. You don’t use your telekinesis to take things that don’t belong to you. Sirens are not thieves.” He never stopped.
Saul legally adopted me a year later, but I spent most of my time with Kaylee’s family. Everyone called him Uncle Saul, so I did too. When I turned twelve, I became a Siren and was part of the early warning system that kept humanity from becoming an all-you-can-eat banquet for the Tai-Kok. Until the Coletti came.
I was sixteen when Kaylee made the mistake of psychically connecting with Talree, a Coletti warlord. It turned into one hell of a “first contact.” The alien warlord immediately claimed her as his mate. The family was seriously pissed, but Kaylee had mentally bonded with the jerk and there was nothing we could do to break that link. I wanted to try, but Uncle Saul put his foot down. He didn’t want the Coletti warlords to know about my “special” talents.
Zarek, the Coletti Overlord, wasn’t a dummy. He soon discovered the Jones family’s unique psychic powers and our blood’s ability to heal cellular damage. The crafty bastard immediately seized control of Earth.
Zarek did agree to stop the Tai-Kok and Rodan from raiding our world. But the bad news was, warlords aren’t benevolent do-gooder types, and there was a price for them helping us. Our women.
I was dumbstruck. What the hell had happened to all their women? Big shocker—the Colettis’ tendency to take things that didn’t belong to them had consequences.
Six hundred years ago, the Coletti race had almost been wiped out in the Great Galactic War. The chemicals used in the war created a genetic anomaly, and only one female baby was born for every one thousand Coletti males. In other words, they were facing extinction.
The second Zarek signed the treaty promising to protect Earth from Tai-Kok and Rodan raids, Central Command arrested every Jones serving in the military, injected them with a tracking device and gave all my relatives to the Coletti warlords. Our family had stopped the monsters from slaughtering hundreds of thousands of people and this was the thanks they got?
General Georgina Tasker said surrendering us to the Coletti was for the greater good. Billions of lives in exchange for a few psychics. It was a win-win situation for Central Command. With the Coletti warbirds circling overhead, they didn’t need Jones Sirens to warn of an imminent attack or our ability to bring down the Tai-Kok ships.
Voss, the Overlord’s battle commander, took me and my immediate family to Tanith, where Zarek gave us the bad news. Our fates were intertwined. For better or worse, to survive what was to come, we had to embrace our destiny and become something stronger, faster. In other words, allow the Coletti to insert their DNA into ours. If we failed to stop the Tai-Kok, not only would Earth be destroyed, but countless worlds would fall too.
Since I had just turned seventeen and Uncle Saul was the Overlord’s go to guy on Earth, I was sent home. The bad news was, once I turned twenty-one, I would be given to a Coletti warrior of Zarek’s choosing. Destiny could suck wind.
The alliance with the Coletti turned out to be a Godsend. With the help of the Askole, Gorum and Katanic shape shifters, the Tai-Kok were wiped from existence. Unfortunately, the Rodan stepped up to fill the void. To me the freaks looked like a rat that had mated with a T-Rex. Their attacks always coincided with our planetary defensive systems going down. Which gave the mutant dinosaurs time to capture several hundred people before retreating. It didn’t take us long to realize most of the individuals being taken had psychic abilities. Uncle Saul knew we had traitors in our ranks and he needed my “special” talents to find them.
Being a natural born snoop, along with my other gifts, made me perfect for the job. My investigation revealed a splinter group of Earth First who wanted our world cleansed of all psychics and aliens. The Rodan offered them the perfect opportunity to rid themselves of our polluted DNA. The dinosaurs were eager to get their hands on psychic brains, which were a highly sought-after delicacy. The traitors’ payment? Weapons and gold.
My legwork led me to Governor-General Ian Dovers of the Australian Defense Force. Using forged paperwork, I got a seat on a C130 cargo transport on a routine run to Australia. Once I was on the Governor-General’s base, I would do some discreet digging around. Or so I thought.